Whether you’re a student, a professional or just want to stay connected and productive, a laptop is one of the most important tools of the trade. But some are better than others, with excellent displays, keyboards, designs and battery life. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that easily fits in your bag and doesn’t break your back, you're looking for what some call an "ultrabook."
The “ultrabook” moniker was originally coined by Intel in 2012 and used to refer to a set of premium, super-thin laptops that met the chipmaker’s predefined standards. Much of this occurred as the PC world was first catching up to the original MacBook Air. However, just as many people refer to tissues as Kleenexes or web searching as Googling, the term ultrabook commonly refers to any premium ultraportable laptop, whether it carries Intel’s seal of approval or not. These days, Intel tends to use its Evo standard to label its top ultrabooks.
Of course, there's always new tech coming down the pipe. Intel's most recent chips are its 12th Gen "Alder Lake" processors for laptops. Those are broken into P-series chips for performance and U-series for the slimmest designs. and we expect to see notebooks with those chips in the coming months. AMD's latest are the Ryzen 6000 series, though we haven't seen a ton of them. Both company's next-gen processors are likely coming soon, as their desktop counterparts are moving forward.
On Macs, Apple's top chip is the M2, which you can find in the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. We'll likely see an M2 Pro and M2 Max for eventual 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro refreshes soon.
The Windows-based picks on this list should be ready to run Windows 11 should you be looking to upgrade room a system with an older, unsupported processor. You can find the system requirements for Windows 11 here. That being said, it's getting less and less likely you'll buy a new laptop with Windows 10. Most systems are coming out of the box with the new operating system.
Cyber Monday Ultrabook and Laptop Deals
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As we fast approach the holidays, Cyber Monday deal season is in full swing. We're tracking all the savings on our Best Cyber Monday PC and Laptop Deals page, but one of our favorites is below.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Laptop (2021): now $543 at Amazon (opens in new tab) (was $639)
This Lenovo IdeaPad is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor with integrated AMD graphics that output to a 15.6-inch FHD display. It comes with 512 GB of internal storage and 8 GB of DDR4 RAM. For a laptop released in 2021, it still stands up as a fairly substantial laptop for both light gaming and casual use.
Quick Ultrabook / Premium Laptop Shopping Tips
- Get a good keyboard: Whether you’re using an ultrabook to browse the web, send emails, code, write or do other productivity work, the keyboard is one of your primary ways of interacting with your computer. Get something with responsive keys that aren’t mushy. Low-travel is ok if the keys have the right feel to them, but the last thing you want to do is “bottom out” while typing.
- Consider what you need in a screen: At a minimum, your laptop should have a 1920 x 1080 screen. Some laptops offer 4K options, though it’s sometimes harder to see the difference at 13-inches or below. While 4K may be more detailed, 1080p screens give you much longer battery life. OLED screens are becoming far more common on laptops, with deep blacks and bright colors, but often at the cost of battery life. Many laptop screens still use a 16:9 aspect ratio, but consider 16:10 or 3:2 if you want a taller screen that shows more of your work at a time.
- Some laptops can be upgraded: While CPUs and GPUs are almost always soldered down, some laptops let you replace the RAM and storage, so you can buy cheaper now and add more memory and a bigger hard drive or SSD down the road. But the thinnest laptops may not have that option, so buy with the future in mind.
- Battery life is important: Aim for something that lasts for 8 hours or longer on a charge (gaming is an exception). For productivity, many laptops easily surpass this number. But be wary of manufacturer claims, which don’t always use strenuous tests. Some laptops are starting to add fast charging, which is a nice bonus that tops you off more quickly.
Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops 2022
Classy and capable, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is the premier convertible 2-in-1 right now. It offers both Thunderbolt (USB Type-C) and USB-A ports, as well as a colorful OLED screen and high-resolution webcam.
I'm still a fan of the design, which is mature but luxurious. We tested it with a black aluminum using copper accents, though silver and blue options are available as well.
HP is using a 15W Intel Core U-series processor here, but we didn't see the Spectre missing out on performance, beating a 28W rival in Geekbench and Handbrake.
The stylus, which comes included with the Spectre, now attached to the side of the display, similar to Microsoft's Surface, making for a familiar and easy-to-reach location whether you use the device as a laptop or a tablet.
The Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 7) is a 14-inch 2-in-1 with an attractive, portable design, a bright display and a mix of ports. Its rounded corners aren't just about form, they make it comfortable to use, and still leave from for Thunderbolt 4 and USB Type-A.
If you opt for a model with an OLED display, like the one we tested, you'll get a right, 16:10 screen that measured 352 nits on our light meter. It also has support for Dolby Vision. I would have liked to see a 3:2 display, which is taller and shows more work, but this is still a bright, vivid display.
Intel's Core i7-1260P showed off with high scores on our performance benchmarks, and the 1TB SSD offered blazing fast SSD speeds.
And if you want solid sound in both laptop and tablet modes, we appreciated Lenovo's 360-degree sound bar that got plenty loud in either posture.
The MacBook Air with M2 is arguably Apple's biggest change to the lineup since it launched, eschewing the historical wedge design for a thinner, flatter look. It's the first MacBook Air to be designed for Apple Silicon, and it sure makes a statement.
But there are a slew of other important changes. The M2 chip is powerful and long-lasting; the display is bright and vivid; MagSafe, the magnetic power connector, has returned; and there's a 1080p webcam, which is a huge improvement, though it's in a notch.
It's a fanless design, so those doing intensive work like video editing or rendering will need to keep that in mind. But for most documents, spreadsheets and even basic photo editing, it does the job just fine.
Read: MacBook Air (M2) review
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The 16-inch MacBook Pro is a powerhouse. We reviewed it with an Apple M1 Max, including a 32-core GPU that's incredibly efficient when it comes to graphics tasks. Video editors rejoice — the MacBook Pro is for you.
Apple added additional ports, including HDMI and an SD card slot alongside three Thunderbolt ports, a headphone jack and a MagSafe charging port that we were thrilled to see return.
Yeah, there's a notch in the display. But we loved the Mini-LED screen. In our testing, it reached 501 nits and surpassed 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and it simply looked better than a regular LED panel.
The 16-inch model is expensive, starting at $2,499 and running for $4,299 as we tested it. Those who want a similar screen, premium build and port selection may also consider the 14-inch model, which starts at $1,999 with a cut-down M1 Pro, which runs many tasks similarly fast, though it doesn't have as powerful a GPU.
You don't have to spend over $1,000 to get a good clamshell notebook. The HP Pavilion can get you the latest Intel processor, 16GB of RAM of a 90 Hz, 2880 x 1800 OLED display. You can go lower for the same design, but with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a non-OLED screen.
We liked the Pavilion for its great port selection, lovely screen and strong performance, all at a value price. The battery life could use some work, but we tested with OLED, and that sucks up battery.
The ports include two USB Type-C ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack and a microSD card reader.
The laptop is made from a mix of aluminum and plastic, giving you a bit of the premium feel you get in more expensive notebooks, even if the design is a bit bland.
Read: HP Pavilion Plus review
The MSI GE76 Raider is our pick for a gaming laptop that can replace your desktop. And yes, it has a massive RGB light bar. It offers seriously strong performance with components ranging up to an Intel Core i9-11980HK and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.
The 17.3-inch display is bright and goes up to 360 Hz, for those who want to play esports titles like Dota 2 or League of Legends as smoothly as possible.
But unlike many of the other laptops on this list, the Raider is not thin. In fact, it's quite large, but you need that for all of the power inside (and for the 17.3-inch build quality). If you want something smaller, the GE66 Raider, our former pick for this spot, which we reviewed last year, has also been updated to more recent parts.
Read: MSI GE76 Raider Review
HP has built the modern work laptop. The Elite Dragonfly Gen 3 is light, stylish, with a tall 3:2 display and a long-lasting battery that lasted 14 hours on our tests.
The Gen 3 drops the 2-in-1 design, so if you're married to your stylus, you might want to look elsewhere. But HP has taken great advantage of the space on the chassis, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI 2.0, a headphone jack and even a USB Type-A port with a drop-jaw hinge. For business users, that last port is still key for tons of peripherals and external storage.
HP has opted to use Intel's 12th Gen U series chips, which means you don't get the best performance, but for most white-collar needs, it should get the job done. It is also likely a contributor to the long battery life.
The one catch? It's pricey. We've seen the price fluctuating, but if you can get your job to get one for you, that may be the best way to go.
Read: HP Elite Dragonfly G3 review
With the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13, the company has taken a more modern approach to the business laptop. The Z13 still has the ethos of a ThinkPad, is unmistakably meant to be one, but with the option for a faux leather lid, classy bronze accents and a haptic touchpad, it feels like a leap forward in design.
We also got just under 14 hours of battery life with the 1920 x 1200 display, which means you can easily get through a day of work.
Lenovo is utilizing AMD's Ryzen Pro CPUs, including an exclusive AMD Ryzen 6860Z, though the main difference between that and the 6850U we tested is a fractional difference in clock speeds. It runs most tasks well, though Intel's 12th gen chips still win out in some areas.
One thing business users may have to get used to is a change in ports, focusing exclusively on USB 4 Type-C and a headphone jack. But otherwise it's a solidly built, easily portable machine that will turn heads.
Asus has begun to refine the dual screen laptop. Sure, there's a more powerful version, but for a laptop with two screens, this one is fairly light, and ran for over 10 and a half hours on a charge.
Windows 10 doesn't yet natively support dual screen software, Asus's ScreenPad Plus launcher has improved since launch, with easy flicks and drags to move apps around the display. For Adobe apps, there's custom dial-based software.
The keyboard and mouse placement are the big compromises, as there isn't a wrist rest and they can feel cramped. But if you want two-screens, this is as good as it gets for now.
Read: Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482 review
The Dell XPS 17 (9720) is our favorite laptop that's slim but still has a big, 17-inch screen. This one goes up to 3840 x 2400 (the way we tested it) with support for touch and a 16:10 aspect ratio to show more spreadsheets or documents. It's made all the more impressive by the minimal bezel, which really highlights whatever is on the display.
We tested the XPS 17 with an Intel Core i7-12700H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, though Dell does offer Intel's Core i9-12900H on limited configurations. If you want to save some money, you can get integrated graphics or a cheaper RTX 3050.
Dell's design here is impeccable, though you only get the same ports as the smaller XPS 15, including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. A USB Type-A port would have been nice for the creatives likely to flock to this laptop.
But the gorgeous display and strong construction wow us, and a dongle can't do much to change that.
Read: Dell XPS 17 (9720) Review
With the Surface Pro 9, Microsoft is offering Intel and Arm options in the same chassis. Either way, you get a sleek, rounded tablet with thin bezels and anodized aluminum (though the Intel model comes in fun colors while the Arm version comes only in platinum).
We think that people focused on the best performance will prefer the Intel models, which start a bit cheaper and, in most cases, offer better performance than Microsoft's SQ3 chip. They also have better app compatibility, as you don't require any emulation.
If you want 5G, though, the SQ3 version is the one to get, but that and just a slight battery life advantage are the big things that it offers.
The Pro 9 doesn't differ from its predecessors in huge ways, but still, its the flagship Windows tablet for a reason. It continues to be expensive, though, as the keyboards are sold separately, adding a cost of $139.99 for the basic keyboard and going higher if you want premium materials or a charging cradle for a stylus.
|*Up to||CPU||GPU||RAM||Storage||Display (inches)|
|HP Spectre x360 14||Core i7-1165G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4-3733*||2TB*||13.5, 2000p|
|Dell XPS 13 (9310)||Core i7-1165G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4x-4276*||512GB*||13.4 touch, 1200p|
|MacBook Pro (16-inch)||Apple M1||8-core GPU on SOC||16GB LPDDR4X-4266*||2TB*||13, 1600p|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 4||Ryzen 7 4980U* or Core i7-1185G||Radeon or Iris Xe (integrated)||32GB LPDDR4x*||1TB*||15 touch, 1664p|
|MSI GE66 Raider||Core i9-10980HK||RTX 2080 Super Max-Q||32GB DDR4-3200*||1TB||15.6, 1080p|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)||Core i7-1165G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||32GB LPDDR4x-4266*||1TB||14 touch, 1920p|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano||Core i7-1160G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4x-4266*||1TB||13 touch,1350p|
|Asus ZenBook Duo UX481||Core i7-10510U*||MX250||16GB DDR3*||1TB||14, 1080p|
|Dell XPS 17||Core i7-12700H||RTX 3060||32GB DDR5||1TB||17 touch, 2400p|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 9||Core i7-1255U||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4x-2092||512GB||13,1920p, 120 Hz|
Finding Discounts on the Best Ultrabooks
Whether you're shopping for one of the best ultrabooks or a laptop didn't quite make our list, you may find savings by checking out our lists of the latest Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Best Buy promo codes or Newegg promo codes.